Sunday, October 18, 2009

Total Recall (of Sci-Fi Past)

I. Before I laud Total Recall, let me just urge you to go to the final show (tonight, Sunday the 18th!) of the play Garden of Forked Tongues, which I suspect is the only play in existence influenced both by futurist, avant-garde playwright Richard Foreman and Stephen King’s time travel story The Langoliers.

II. I noted malleable-reality themes yesterday and cyberpunk themes both then and the previous day, making today’s entry sort of the third and final entry in an unofficial Cyberpunk Trilogy of Entries within my Week of Dystopia within my “Month of Utopia.” The main topic of today’s entry is ostensibly Total Recall, another Paul Verhoeven blockbuster that professional movie reviewer Scott Nybakken has called “a perfect film.” It is indeed an amazingly tight, humorous, well-oiled machine of a film, and I’ll just add that it works much better if you assume it may all be a computer-generated fantasy after all, instead of lazily assuming our protagonist knows what’s what.

Indeed, the scene in which Arnold Schwarzenegger is urged to take the red pill so that he can see through the purported illusion in which he may or may not be immersed seems the likely inspiration (along with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) for a more famous but very similar scene in The Matrix.

III. Speaking of what counts as “real” in sci-fi: How did the 1970s sci-fi series Space: 1999 end? What ever became of Moonbase Alpha? Well, if you think a seven-minute DVD clip made circa 1996, twenty years after the original, counts as canonical, here’s your answer, featuring original-series actress Saundra Benes.

And if that bored you silly, remind yourself how much peppier the show itself — twenty years earlier — was by watching the beautiful, epic, and funky season one opening one more time.

IV. On a very similar note, if you consider Galactica 1980 canonical, then the original Galactica saga ended rather abruptly with everyone from the fleet settling covertly on an ashram in the hills of California, so there’s a certain planetary-population-settlement balance between Galactica and Space: 1999, I suppose.

While we’re at it, recall that for all the understandable praise lavished on the more recent version of Galactica, the original 1978 series had better music.

And if sci-fi itself strikes you as a juvenile retreat from reality, remember: better to make up a manifestly fictional reality than to misrepresent the one we actually live in — and that brings us to tomorrow’s entry, concerning the mythologizing of Sick Societies.

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